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How safety defines FBT Transwest: Part One

How safety defines FBT Transwest: Part One

FBT Transwest’s Cameron Dunn is one of a rare breed of executives that have managed to weave safety into the very fabric of an organisation. In Part One of a two-part special, he reveals how safety culture has to transcend the confines of a company to truly make an impact.

Cameron Dunn has never been a man to beat around the bush. Be it as a young clerk for the original United Tankers business in Western Australia, as Managing Director of award-winning Victorian transport company, FBT Transwest, or as President of the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) – Cameron’s talent to distil complex issues down to a simple message and articulate it in a powerful and compelling way has helped him forge a reputation as one of the most outspoken and passionate people in commercial road transport.

Fuelled by his unique rhetoric talent – a quality that ultimately put him on the VTA’s leadership radar in 2015 – challenging the status quo has become a trademark feature of the young executive, albeit with a twist. “I’m not a politician,” he says with the stern resolve of a man whose place in the corporate hierarchy had to be earned the hard way. “If I say something, I’ll also act on it. If you talk the talk, you need to walk the walk.”

As Managing Director of Melbourne bulk transport business, FBT Transwest, Cameron says his commitment to taking action is put to the test every day, most notably in an Occupational Health and Safety context.

“Driven by my mantra – only safe businesses are good businesses, and good businesses are sustainable businesses – I set myself a single most important KPI when I joined FBT Transwest – reducing our Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate (LTIFR) to zero,” he says. “Everything I’ve done since then, every truck I’ve bought and every contract I’ve signed, was with that commitment in mind.”

To meet his personal KPI, he embarked on what may be the most comprehensive corporate culture–building initiative in Australian road transport, creating an environment where safety is not just seen as a compliance hurdle anymore, but also as a strategic business tool and – ultimately – a way of life.

“Safety is about human beings and how they see and perceive the world,” he says. “As such, a safety culture cannot be imposed on a company, it must come from within. You can have all the systems and processes in the world, but unless you as the leader and your people believe that we need to be safe, it just won’t happen – and that’s not just at work, that’s on every level. At home, on the road, everywhere.”

Cameron doesn’t hold back when it comes to advocating safety. “[It] has to be a group effort involving everyone you work with, from subcontractors through to suppliers, otherwise you’ll always end up compromising. That’s why safety ultimately has to be considered in every business decision you make – talk alone simply won’t cut it. You need to stand up for yourself and your people and provide them with the best equipment, the best processes and the best culture. There’s no shortcut.”

With ‘zero harm’ his main focus, Cameron has implemented a strict procurement policy at FBT Transwest that is all about challenging suppliers to add to the company’s safety agenda, he elaborates – admitting that his directness and ability to verbalise his vision have helped him find the ideal set-up for the FBT Transwest organisation.

“We believe that all injuries can be prevented and that we are all accountable for creating and maintaining a safe workplace. Our suppliers are not exempt from that – I want them to become part of our mission and actively help us push the safety envelope.

“Volvo, for example, is supplying us with cutting-edge safety technology that is keeping our drivers and other road-users safe, and we are happy to pay for that. The same is true for SAF-Holland running gear and Vawdrey trailing equipment, for example. They’ve all made a conscious decision to support us on our journey, which is why we have committed to them in return.”

In the case of Volvo, that commitment has led to FBT Transwest changing solely to Swedish-designed equipment, with the latest purchase a prime example of how the two businesses collaborate to set the safety bar as high as possible. “Initially, choosing Volvo [over the company’s old brand] was a huge cultural shift but necessary to get where we wanted to be,” he explains. “We wanted the best possible vehicle for what we’re trying to achieve, and our drivers have embraced that change without complaint.

“The safety technology included in our latest purchase, an FM eight-wheeler model, is proof that the effort was worth it – it really moved the bar to a new level. It’s equipped with a safety technology package unlike anything else you’ve seen in Australia – including everything from Lane Keeping Support and Blind Spot Indication all the way through to a Driver Support System that is able to detect fatigue and warn the driver accordingly. We asked Volvo to raise the bar, and it set it to a point we didn’t even know existed.”

On the trailer front, Cameron says working with Melbourne family business Vawdrey Australia not only helped the company raise its safety rating, but also helped the company achieve significant economic benefits in the transport of ISO containers, an increasingly crucial part of the FBT Transwest business.

“Again, it was all about finding a supplier that would buy into our philosophy. The B-doubles we have developed with Vawdrey have played an essential role in getting us to where we are today. It’s a great example of how safety has influenced our purchasing processes and led to a positive business outcome.”

Cameron says as a result of making the company’s procurement processes part of FBT Transwest’s overarching business philosophy – thus aligning them with every employee’s personal attitude – it has evolved into a company that is not just about transporting dangerous cargo anymore, but also about providing complex logistics solutions that add value to the industry at large.

“As a company that is truly committed to safety and doesn’t just treat it as a catchphrase, we have a competitive edge over a lot of businesses in our line of work. In that sense, safety has become an important sales tool for us that is winning us business where others fail,” he says.

“But I believe we can be even more than that. If we allow what we do to transcend the FBT Transwest world and inspire the industry at large, we’re truly changing the game. To do so, we rely on our suppliers – just look at what Volvo has achieved with the latest FM. But it also comes down to my own and my team’s interaction with the industry. A vision is only ever as good as the action it inspires."

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